Nuclear waste from U.K. arrives in Japan

14:00, March 09, 2010      

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A freighter carrying a cargo of high- level nuclear waste docked at the Mutsu Ogawa port in Aomori Prefecture, north Japan on Tuesday, local media reported.

The vessel, which departed from Barrow Port in the northwest of England on Jan. 20, was carrying a payload of 28 cylinders of nuclear waste that was converted into solidified glass in Britain for disposal on behalf of four Japanese power companies -- Tokyo Electric Power Co., Kansai Electric Power Co., Shikoku Electric Power Co. and Kyushu Electric Power Co., according to Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd.

The nuclear waste comes from the U.K.'s Sellafield Nuclear facility and is a by-product of nuclear fuel spent by Japanese reactors that was originally sent to the U.K. for reprocessing during the 1980s and 1990s.

Japan's nine nuclear power companies and Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. have concluded contracts with Britain and France to reprocess spent nuclear fuel, although shipments to Japan from France of high-level radioactive waste finished in 2007, with Japan receiving 1,310 cylinders of nuclear waste.

According to sources close to the matter, over the next decade Japan will continue receive similar consignments totaling 850 cylinders of radioactive waste from the U.K.

Tuesday's shipment of nuclear waste was checked by local government officials and nuclear experts before being moved to a storage facility belonging to Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd., the operator of Japan's only commercial nuclear reprocessing plant.

The transportation details of the nuclear cargo from the ship to the plant were not disclosed to the public for reasons of security.

The plant is located in the small village of Rokkasho, which has a population of just over 10,000, on the northern tip of Japan 's largest main island of Honshu, some 600 kilometers north of Tokyo.

The 28 cylinders of nuclear waste, measuring 134 centimeters in height and 43 cm in diameter, will reportedly be kept in a specialized cooling chamber for up to 40-years before being buried underground, which has raised concern among local officials and residents in the village of Rokkasho and the wider Aomori prefectural community that the radioactive waste may end up being buried somewhere in the prefecture.

At Mutsu Ogawara port on Tuesday, members of an anti-nuclear citizens group mobilized in protest and shouted their opposition to Aomori Prefecture becoming a potential nuclear waste dumping site.

Campaigners in the U.K., according to the BBC, also voiced their staunch criticism of the shipments, saying they are dangerous, whilst a spokesperson for the Sellafield Nuclear facility said, prior to the vessel embarking, that the site was simply fulfilling its contractual obligations, and government policy, in transporting the waste safely to Japan.

Source: Xinhua
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